Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4

Last week, The Brainzooming Group was in San Francisco for the Social Media Strategies Summit, where Mike presented a content marketing strategy workshop and a talk on collaborative engagement. In the workshop, he brought up the idea of turning seemingly boring brands into cool brands. That’s important, because brand strategy has everything to do with cool. This is true even if you’re an industrial brand, as Mike pointed out:

Well, okay, you might be thinking, But there’s nothing cool about our brand. There’s no fire. We’re completely utilitarian, unhip, the least sexy service on the planet. Possibly the galaxy. Hear me, friend: no matter what you do, there’s something inherently cool about your services, your product, your people, and maybe even all three. Marcel Proust was spot on when he wrote that the voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. So let’s see about getting some new eyes and putting them to work for you.

3 Keys to Creating Cool Brands from Boring Brands

1. Define Cool

Start by making sure your definition is up to date. Cool used to be a narrow space occupied by a select few, but that isn’t the case any longer. Its definition has expanded, if not outright exploded, and now there’s much more space at this particular table. Within the current landscape, here are a few traits I see that fit inside the broad category of cool brands:

  • On trend
  • Intelligent
  • Humanitarian
  • Rebellious
  • Kind
  • Honest
  • Clever
  • Unique
  • Consistent
  • Simple

What makes these things cool? It all boils down to the same thing. And despite its recent run as an overused buzzword, at its core it’s all that matters. It’s authenticity, of course. When something is true, we know it on an instinctual level that can be hard to quantify. Perhaps it’s easier to quantify its opposite. It’s a scientific fact that phoniness disguised as authenticity creeps us out. To paraphrase the incisively smart Eve Callahan from Umpqua Bank, whose presentation at the Social Media Strategies Summit left my brain…well, zooming: humans are great at spotting blanks.

But when we’re interacting with authenticity, there’s a sense of order and peace about the interaction. There’s even, dare I say, a sense of fun and creativity about it. In this unreliable world, authenticity is as cool as it gets. So whether you’re authentically kind, consistent, rebellious, clever, or something else altogether: you’re cool. Humans love authenticity. (It’s essential for excellence. If excellence were a planet, authenticity would be its carbon, the basis for all its life forms.)

Chances are, your organization can identify two or three of these as descriptors, but generally there’s a standout trait in what you do and how you do it that’s become, in the mind of your customer, a kind of shorthand for your identity. (If that makes you nervous, don’t worry, just keep reading: this is going to help.)

2. Ask Your People

So what is that standout trait? Ask your people. For our purposes, “your people” comprises customers, colleagues, higher-ups, partners, collaborators, and, if possible, competitors. Reach out to as many as possible to get their input. You can do this in person (quickly ask someone on your way to a meeting, or when you’re grabbing a coffee, and jot down their answer), via email, via text, over the phone, using an online survey or collaboration — you get the picture. If you can get everyone to respond on one platform, that’s great, but it’s not necessary. What’s definitely necessary is to have the feedback of multiple representatives from each group.

When you feel you’ve gotten either as much feedback as you need, or as much as you’re going to get, take a close look at it. What words come up most often? Which one most closely matches your brand promise?* Once you’ve identified that, you can move on to the fun part.

3. Amp it Up

This is where you bring it to life. Set aside some planning time, then take that ineffable cool that’s central to your organization and walk it through every available venue. If you can include a couple of trusted associates to help, all the better. Make your cool the lens through which you see, the starting point of everything you do. What does honesty (or rebellion, or intelligence, or kindness, etc.) look like in social-first content, in print, over radio? What does it look it in customer service, in an internal newsletter, in an all-hands-on-deck meeting? How does a fundamentally honest organization start and end the business day?

Chances are, your organization’s doing some (or many!) of these things already, but you’ll find that you’re coming up with simple-to-implement ideas that had never occurred to you before. And while you can’t possibly change everything you’d like to change, there’s probably a whole lot you can amp up to shine a big spotlight on what make your cool brand as cool as it is. Which has the potential to drastically improve the strength and success of your entire organization.

And that’s pretty cool. Emma Alvarez Gibson

*If they don’t match, perhaps it’s time for a little internal disruptive thinking?

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I was talking with someone who was wondering aloud about how to boost the creative thinking skills of a group made up primarily of fact- and logic-driven individuals. Think accountants, engineers, compliance officers, and others in right-wrong answer professions.

What a great (and challenging) question. We’ve faced a few situations like this. We don’t deal with it more frequently because we consciously push in advance for diverse groups to engage in creative thinking and innovation workshops.

3 Ways to Find Strong Creative Thinking Skills in Logic-Oriented Groups

In response to the question, we shared several ideas to identify the participants more likely to display strong creative thinking skills within a group setting such as the one described.

via Shutterstock

1. Profile the Participants Upfront

The first step is to identify the participants most likely to display strong creative thinking skills by asking someone within the organization to profile each participant. They can do this based on their strategic thinking perspectives alone. They might also profile them based on the types of voices each will bring to a group setting.

2. Ask the Math and Music Question

To identify those most likely to display robust creative thinking skills within a logic-oriented group, look for the math and music people. Invariably, people with interests and aptitudes in both math and music are versatile thinkers. They can more easily disengage from the purely logical side to think imaginatively. You can insert a question about who enjoys math AND music within an ice breaker exercise or within a sign-up sheet asking various questions.

3. Have the Group Perform an Abstract Task

Another possibility is to give the group an abstract ice breaker task with no obvious right or wrong answer. Ideally, the exercise should push participants outside their comfort zones. Even mentioning such an exercise will cause many of them to balk or pout. Most of the rest will display that behavior while doing it. Some of them, however, will have fun. Those individuals are signaling more openness to creativity through their behavior. One ice breaker question we’ve used that happened to work will in this regard was, “What is the last thing on your mind?” Participant’s answers made it clear who could have fun with the question, and who just thought it was the dumbest question ever. An exercise that works well is telling them that you are going to teach them to draw a cartoon. It always works (everyone winds up realizing they can draw) and always unveils the participants interested in doing new things.

No Guarantees, but these Provide Possibilities

While none of these approaches is guaranteed, they can all help identify participants with stronger creative thinking skills. You will want to make sure you spread these individuals throughout any small groups. This will help create more focus on generating ideas versus analyzing them to death! – Mike Brown

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It’s the start of the Lenten season today. On Ash Wednesday, we begin a multi-week period in which Christians are called to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to pull away from the attractions of the world and to immerse themselves in their spiritual lives.

This year is an unusual Lent because it begins on Valentine’s Day and ends on Easter Sunday, which is also April Fool’s Day.

Yet the intertwining of Christ’s message of love and the apparent foolishness of the Easter message to the world are nothing unusual or new at all.

I’ve been praying about my own sacrifices for Lent for several weeks, and I’m still not sure what I’m being called to do. Perhaps the answer is in this juxtaposition of love and foolishness: to examine my life and make sure that what I love, as represented by where I devote my time, attention, and passion, isn’t wrapped up in the foolishness of this world, but in the love and wisdom of God for what lives on beyond our lives here.

That’s what I’ll be praying about today.

In the meantime, here is the creativity prayer that we’ve been sharing for many Ash Wednesdays, now. May God bless you creatively and in all other ways in the weeks and years ahead!

A Creativity Prayer

Lord, thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours. Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others. Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

©2008, Mike Brown





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“Is there a way to decide how much content brands in a multi-brand family can share, and how much needs to be different among the brands?”

I’ve been asked that question multiple times recently after delivering Brainzooming social-first content marketing strategy workshops.

My answer?

Return to the fundamentals we teach for building a content marketing strategy. In these cases, however, you can approach things in reverse order, unpacking your brand strategy framework to answer this type of question.

3 Steps to Find Multi-Brand Content Marketing Strategy Similarities

Step 1 – Audience Personas

The first step is to identify what personas are in use across the multiple brands. Are there separate personas or are they the same? If they are different, how much do their interests overlap with one another?

Step 2 – Content Preferences

Next look at how much the personas’ content preferences and profiles match one another. Which themes and topics are going to be of interest to all the groups? Do they represent a large or small portion of the overall content?

Step 3 – Brand Promise Components

Finally, go through a three-question branding exercise that we use in many situations. In this case, it helps you understand your audiences’ expectations and tolerances for unique content:

  • What does each brand’s audience EXPECT in the content the brand shares?
  • What types of variations from that content will the audience ACCEPT from the brand?
  • If the brand delivers the optimum content, how will the audience REWARD the highly-targeted content?

Across this series of questions, you can begin to form conclusions about your options for creating content that is common across all your brands. – Mike Brown Download Fast Forward Today!

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“What am I missing? What is the insight I’m not seeing that could make our content marketing strategy make sense?”

An attendee at the 2018 Social Media Strategies Summit conference in San Francisco made that comment. She works for a major non-profit organization. She’s trying to manage through three strategic expectations the senior management team and board have regarding a content marketing strategy:

  1. They want to keep everything on one Facebook page.
  2. They have two important audiences that are each interested in different types of content.
  3. She can’t change either of the first two strategic expectations.

She’s beating herself up for her inability to find an amazing branding strategy insight. The one that would allow her to get around the contradictions posed by her senior management team’s decidedly non-social-first content marketing strategy expectations.

As we discussed her organization’s situation, I suggested various ways to target content to the two audiences based on what they are interested in hearing about from the organization. While the ideas were sound strategically, each one directly challenged the expectations in a way she was certain she couldn’t do.

After a few minutes, I assured her that she isn’t missing any big branding strategy insight.

The problem is the management team’s decisions about the content marketing strategy. Their stipulations are all about brand-first, not social-first, content.

She told her management team that she would return from the conference and write the organization’s social media strategy. She didn’t see that happening without the big insight.

I suggested she instead focus on creating a strategic conversation with her management team. Her first step is to address what they want to achieve as an organization with their two audiences. She can then start suggesting how social media contributes to realizing those business objectives. The more they want to push a brand-first content strategy, the less wedging in a few social-first content marketing tactics will successfully fix things.

Maybe THAT is the insight she was seeking: you can’t pursue the smart thing (a social-first content marketing strategy) when management’s every strategic expectation runs counter to doing so.

Not a great situation. As least now, though, she has a pathway to attempt to help them work their way out of it! – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

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I’m delivering a workshop at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco today. It will cover creating a sustainable, social-first content marketing strategy. The three-hour workshop will take participants through typical sticking points brands face in developing effective content marketing strategy plans that start strong, build, and continue to deliver results.

Areas where we’ll concentrate and spend extended time as participants work through Brainzooming exercises include:

One workshop attendee, Angelo Harms, Digital Marketing Manager at the Curaçao Tourist Board, has seen me present workshops multiple times at SMSSummits. Angelo has also brought us to Curaçao for content marketing strategy workshops the past two years. Because he’s seen SOOOO much of our content, I wanted to come up with something new Angelo hasn’t seen yet.

9 Ways a Brand Can Sustain a Social-First Content Marketing Strategy

Here it is, with a sneak peek for all of you.

It’s a tool to identify starter topic ideas along the customer journey (X-axis) from three different perspectives (Y-axis):

  • What customers are thinking about and facing
  • Industry and product category considerations
  • Brand content that fits social-first needs

Beyond a content calendar, it’s another strategy way to ensure sure you are developing a strong mix of content that is relevant to prospects and customers, no matter where they are along the journey to your brand.

If you would like to go deeper into the topic, download our FREE eBook on Social-First content. It covers many of the exercises and tools we’ll share in the workshop content marketing strategy workshop.

If you’d like help thinking about how a content strategy helps grow and develop your brand, contact us. Let’s grab time to chat about the possibilities for growing your revenue and customer base through social-first content! – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

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What You Get Traveling

First trip of the year, and I started getting a sore throat by the first morning. How did I not build up more immunity than THAT? A scratchy throat makes for a long week . . . While walking around downtown Boston in 20-degree weather, I had a great hoodie on under my coat. I felt like Bill Belichick . . . When I was frozen and finally ready to give up and get an Uber, my phone kept shutting off. Or maybe it was user error. Either way, THAT is bad timing . . . The restaurant one night featured a “Roasted Half Roasted Chicken.” Not sure if that is bad proof reading or that chicken is really snockered . . . I was pushing my luck on both legs of this trip. No crab cakes until I had some at the Baltimore airport. No lobster roll until I had one at the Boston airport. Gotta start getting my regional food needs covered on arrival.

Doing The Work

You know you have the right data set when a clear implication is that a corporate executive intrigued by “fun strategic planning” is destined to work with us . . . When someone is all-in to your movement, find every way to involve them. Then get out of the way and let them go . . . There really is an interesting bond with people born around the time you were. They always feel like home. Just discovered that two fave clients and I were all born within 3 months of each other . . . “Invest in people.” No truer words from a great guy that advises us on inbound marketing . . . Yes, in answer to your question, I do have one of those Facebook things. Brainzooming does too. Wanna come join us?

Getting There, Here, and Yon

This flight attendant’s favorite (and frequently repeated) phrase, “Go long.” Okay, sure. Whatever you say . . . I just got A-List status on Southwest Airlines. I need to learn the perks, and figure out how to take advantage of them. In the meantime, the soon-to-expire free drink tickets from a friend came in handy as anything . . . The guy across the aisle from me on the plane insists I am a character actor he’s seen on TV . . . I don’t have the need for speed. The need to have peed? Yeah, that’s what I need. It’s a long way from Boston to Kansas City . . . Uber drivers in many places seem to be wannabe entertainers. Not in Boston, though. They are surly enough to be actual cab drivers . . . For my first Uber on Monday, I was the driver’s FIRST Uber ride ever; she missed my house on the pickup and curb hopped once. On the last day, I was somewhere in the 19,000s of that driver’s rides. It must have been an even longer week for him than it was for me. – Mike Brown

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